Starring Riverdale actor Lili Reinhart along with Danny Ramirez and Aisha Dee, Look Both Ways is directed by Wanuri Kahiu (Rafiki). Although I wish the new Netflix original was a little more engaging, it still has a slightly different narrative than the usual romantic comedy dramas that deal with unwanted pregnancies and life choices.
Look Both Ways Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
The film revolves around Natalie, an aspiring artist who wishes to become an animation filmmaker. She dreams about living a life in LA, California, working with the best animation studios (thanks to her 5-year-plan!). However, overwhelmed by emotions and her plans slowly coming to life, she chooses to sleep with her friend Gabe (Danny Ramirez).
On the eve of her graduation party, she finds herself in a dilemma when her best friend, Cara (Aisha Dee), suggests she take a pregnancy test. It is here that we see Natalie’s life diverges into parallel realities after taking the test, which shows the consequence of two versions of her life decisions.
One side of her life shows that she decides to embrace womanhood (become a young mother) as she bids farewell to her five-year plan and life in LA as an animation artist. The other side explores her hopes and desire that she worked hard for many years as her life comes to a full circle in her dream city.
What works for me in the film is that director Wanuri Kahiu, along with writer April Prosser, did not try to outsmart the audience while exploring the pressing issues among young adults these days. There is a plethora of films that have explored the theme of embracing motherhood at a young age. However, the Netflix film Look Both Ways has also addressed postpartum depression and the existential crisis of being a young mother; while simultaneously trying to find a voice as an artist. And I must say – it has done a beautiful job while doing that.
In the following article, I have tried to break down Natalie’s life in two different versions; leading towards the realization of which of these is her reality. Be aware that the article contains spoilers from here on out.
Narrative 1: Natalie is in Austen, Texas, dealing with her life’s new priorities
Natalie shares the news of her pregnancy with Gabe right after the party. Gabe tells her that it is her choice to make and he doesn’t wish to run away from the situation because it affects him too. Instead, he supports her with whatever she decides to choose from thereon.
We all know confronting your parents with such a grave circumstance is no easy task, so when Natalie shares the news with her parents, they state the obvious facts of how fast things will change in her life. However, after freaking out as over-caring parents trying to protect their only daughter from making rash decisions, they eventually understand and stand by Natalie with her choices.
Natalie is sad as her life is at a crossroads. While talking to her friend, Cara, she shares that it is difficult for her to process the new changes as she sees her friend embarking on the journey they both were supposed to make together.
After the birth of her baby, Natalie crumbles back to post-partum depression. At the same time, her relationship with Gabe, with whom she has been co-parenting Rosie, also begins to collapse as they move in a different direction in life.
Narrative 2: Natalie is in LA, California, acing in manifesting her life
Relieved that she is not pregnant, Natalie moves on as she prepares for the next phase of her life – Los Angeles. As they drive past their dream city’s major attractions, everything seems unreal to Natalie and her best friend, Cara.
Upon their arrival, Natalie’s original plan is to find a job to sustain herself in the city. Cara pushes her to send job applications everywhere. As luck would have it, she gets a phone call and lands a job as an assistant to her favorite animator Lucy Galloway.
Meanwhile, she also starts dating a cute guy, Jake (David Corenwet), who works at the same office. Things begin to shape perfectly until one day, she gets fired, and at the same time; her boyfriend goes off for a shoot to a remote place away from the country.
The pressure of keeping up with a long-distance relationship doesn’t sit well with her. Hence, she breaks up with Jake. Discouraged by the current phase of time and lack of inspiration in a city that beams with new talent and fierce competition, Natalie starts to spiral toward finding her voice as an animator. She returns to her parent’s house, hoping things may change for the better.
How does everything change for Natalie when she discovers herself?
In both timelines, things start to come around when she returns to drawing. After re-evaluating her thoughts and ideas, she starts working day and night to make her dreams come true. She submits her project to the SXSW film festival and gets nominated in the panel.
In the first timeline, we see Natalie as a headstrong 22-year-single mother who wants to do things right in her life. Even though things did not shape the way she imagined in her five-year plan, she is willing, in control, and at peace with the ever-changing course of her circumstances. Natalie is also very logical and understands that everything doesn’t necessarily have to go according to her plans.
However, Natalie, in the second timeline, is entirely oblivious of how things have a way of getting into your plans. She is emotional and lost as she gets tangled up with the uncertainties of life. She struggles to adjust to new changes and believes that fate will push her to find the next moment in life.
In the first timeline, Natalie, her family, and Cara go to the nearby bar to celebrate her project’s achievements. She meets Gabe, who also happens to be performing at the festival. Natalie shares her true feeling about Gabe after learning that he is no longer married. Natalie and Gabe kiss as things shape for good at this point in their life.
On the parallel side, we see Natalie meets Jake outside the festival theatre, and he apologizes for everything that happened in LA. Things turn favorable for them as they kiss one another. After the screening of her short film, Natalie meets her former boss, Lucy, who invites her to the office for further discussion about her career.
Look Both Ways Movie Ending, Explained:
While Natalie kept reinventing herself with the uncertainties of life, things are finally shaping for her on both sides. She is a great mom, has a great future as an animator, and has an understanding partner on her side that makes her life perfect. As Natalie walks back to her university arena with her partner (from both of the timelines), she decides to go inside the dormitory for one last time.
In the next moment, we see both the Natalies standing together against the mirror of the same restroom. They look behind at the toilet seat (where she took her pregnancy test) and smile. Looking back at the mirror, both say – You’re okay, indicating everything is alright, no matter whatever she chooses to do with her life.
In the end, we are back in the first scene with Natalie holding the pregnancy test in her hand, looking straight into the camera – as Natalie from the parallel timelines walk away from the university dorms towards two different paths, happy with their decisions.